Haley Burger: Make our schools more energy efficient
Published: Wednesday, January 19, 2011 at 2:57 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 19, 2011 at 2:57 p.m.
Dear School Board of Alachua County:
I am an eleventh grade student at Eastside High School, the school using the third-highest amount of energy in the district. I am very grateful for your concern of cutting energy costs by giving schools "green makeovers." I hope that this idea eventually catches on, as with the recent press in the Gainesville Sun has brought up the issue again. ("Why do Area Schools' Energy Savings Lag?" Gainesville Sun edition, Saturday, January 15th, 2011)
I hope to see the initial push soon, as our schools need to go green, to reduce costs for the school district, to increase green awareness, and to leave a smaller carbon footprint in our community. I believe that what the article in the paper had to say sounded very factual; schools would save money on their energy bills and have more money to spend in other areas! Witnessing firsthand the effects of certain budget cuts in my own school, I feel confident in saying that Eastside High School is in dire straits, needing as much financial help as we can get!
My Environmental Science class, taught by Dr. Steve Everett, has been very helpful and informative in increasing my awareness and concern for the environmental going-ons around my school, my community, and my state. From learning of the condition of the Florida aquifer, to just recently doing an International Baccalaureate lab on solar energy, my curiosity has been aroused and I am very concerned about the choices my community leaders make concerning the environment.
Eastside High School has had the same air conditioning unit since around the time the school was built, in the 1970s. It is a giant machine located behind the school near the sports fields, which erupts steam and obnoxious noises during activity. It constantly requires tune-ups as it is so old and inefficient. I should hope that the next system to be installed would reduce energy costs by at least half, as there are certainly systems which could do so. Again, thank you for showing your concern with such energy setbacks within our schools.
I also was curious about what it would take to make a step towards solar powered schools. I am quite aware of how expensive solar panel systems are, how pricey they are to install, etc. Are there certain grants that public schools can receive towards solar panels? I'm sure with the proper research into such opportunities, the options are available.
Milhopper Montessori School was able to make the switch through the GRU feed-in tariff program; are such options available for public schools? Maybe even one school at a time? This feed-in tariff program seems as though it will eventually pay for itself, and at the rate at which solar energy is becoming more and more popular, GRU will someday have to buy more of this power from the businesses and institutions with the solar system installed. It seems like a great investment, and something public schools will want to be a part of.
I think a perfect example of how not to invest in an energy system that is a part of the status-quo of current energy solutions is the biomass plant coming to Gainesville. The plant has a contract between 20-30 years in Gainesville, a choice residents will be stuck with for that long. I believe within 10 years, the plant will be outdated, extremely inefficient and detrimental towards our energy bills and community. Why make a similar choice in our school district? This is why I believe by looking towards solar energy, our schools can and will save money in the future, by taking a step towards the future in energy efficiency.
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